As with everything else in life, there are best practices for chasing dreams — any dreams.
The key concept to keep in mind is this: in order for you to realize your dream, you have to first become a person who has the capacity to do so. Becoming worthy and capable is the requirement here, before your dreams can fully materialize.
So, fundamental character-building is essential. Develop yourself first, and your ability to turn ideas into reality will increase.
Before I realized this, I used to pursue my dream with totally wrong focus: seeking shortcuts, exploiting other people, putting efforts only in places where I thought they’d have direct impact on Getting Somewhere. But yet, my dream eluded me, and now I know the reason — I just didn’t have a capacity for it.
So these are the five essential areas I’m working on. I believe that they really apply to anybody and everybody who has a dream and is working on realizing it.
1. Nurture and Train Your Body
Our body is the foundation of our being, and it’s a reflection of who we are. How you treat it, then, is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. Eating well, sleeping enough, and challenging it properly through exercising — all adds up to crafting a body that’s optimized for success.
I try to think of famous musicians and actors. Do many of them look out of shape? No, and I’m sure they put in considerable amount of effort to make their bodies good and presentable.
When Van Halen last went on tour, there was question in the air about if they could still deliver the goods. Not only were there reports of relationship problems, but there were also health issues and long, long gaps between creative output. These guys aren’t getting younger, can they still deliver?
When Eddie and co. showed up, though, you know what? At the very least, they looked good. Both Eddie and David Lee Roth showed off their tight, six-packed abs and masculine chests liberally. They were rock stars and they showed up looking like they mean business. And you know, it takes considerable effort to get in shape like that.
Getting in shape is a start of your success. When you feel good about your body, you feel good about life.
For me, it’s been just over a year since I joined the local JCC and have made exercising an integral part of my life. Swimming, resistance training and biking are my choices. I was already a decent eater but I can improve upon that. It’s been fun to keep showing up and seeing my body change over the months — though I still have ways to go before I’m totally Lean and Mean.
2. Align Your Tools and Surroundings
Imagine your life to be a suitcase. It has a set capacity — you can’t put more in, unless you make room for it. Obvious, right?
Yet, I find that we desire for things that we don’t have room for, or we forget to equip ourselves properly first.
I’ll show you my bad example first: I’m a guitar player, yet my guitar equipment is not put together in a professional way. I have some key tools missing, and my guitars are badly in need of tune-up. Yes, putting things in order takes money, but if I say “I don’t have it” it’s really just an excuse. I’ve given in to voices of Resistance, and that’s why my key pieces of equipment are not in shape.
I’m working on changing that. (I’m saving money. 🙂 )
If you want to buy a house, get a better job or earn a raise so you have money to pay for it. If you want to date, then drop other activities so you have time to meet new people and invest in that relationship. If you want to lose weight, then throw away temptations, invest in exercise gear that’s fun to use/wear. If you want to paint, start with making room for your easel, make sure it’s an easy place to get to.
Optimize, optimize, optimize. Remove roadblocks and obstacles. Streamline the process. Make room. Get proper equipment.
There’s always something you can do to increase the capacity for dream-realizing.
3. Meet New People Regularly
Your capacity for success is directly related to the number of people you know, and particularly, the number of people who know you and have faith in you.
You can be working on the world’s best invention — but if no one knows about it, how good is it? Marketing and promotion is not just for professionals. It’s essential to anybody’s success.
And the only way to increase the number of good relationships in your life is to meet new people.
I used to be really bad at this. I just stayed in my comfort zone, went about the same routines everyday, hang out with people I already knew. Then when I lose a job, for example, I don’t have any leads, don’t know any people in other businesses, don’t have any connections to tap into.
The time to network is when you don’t need to.
There are networking meetings, Meetup.com, Facebook groups, churches, library book clubs — if you look around, there are infinite opportunities for meeting new people. It’s only laziness and lack of effort that can make a person not meet new people regularly, like the way I was. There are no excuses. People are everywhere, and you should be meeting new faces.
For me, I am making it my goal to become a regular at the networking meeting for alums of alma mater, St. Olaf College. It’s a small liberal-arts school associated with Lutheran Church, an all-residential campus on a hill in a small town Minnesota. It has a very distinct culture there, and meeting other Oles I find that there’s a good common ground, just because we all went there. Oles tend to be thoughtful, ethical and very creative — lots of interesting people. One member said this, and I agree: if given a choice, I’d rather work with a fellow Ole. I’m going to be a familiar face at these meetings, because I can count on meeting new people there.
4. Assemble Collaborators
I used to think that DIY meant Do It by Yourself. It was faster and easier, I thought, to just do it myself. I know what I want, and I can do it.
Well, I’m blessed with a quick-learning brain and can learn to hack at things fairly fast. But I have to be honest here. I’m just a hack. I can’t be pro at everything.
Soon I realized that my over-reliance on my hackability was really holding myself back. When I released my first album, I did virtually everything myself. While it’s good to know that I can do it, the songs I’m writing now are bigger and more mature in scope, and — you know what? I can’t do it justice. I can’t sing in a way these songs deserve to be sung. My recording skills aren’t up to par either, because the new songs demand more advanced techniques.
The bigger your dream is, the more collaborators you need.
But even if your aspiration is simply to lose weight, collaborators are still essential. An exercise partner, for example, can be a great help in making sure you don’t fall off the track on the exercise trail.
Doing it alone makes things difficult. Yes, it’s true that it’s not always easy to find like-minded collaborators. But finding them is critical to our success.
To this end, I became active in an online co-op of authentic entrepreneurs. And I’ve started spreading the word that I’m looking for a singer to collaborate with on my recordings.
I’ve done it alone for so long, and look how long it’s taken. It’s time for that to change.
5. Blog Your Process
Internet is obviously a game-changer for humanity in so many ways, and while it has its downsides, it can be a powerful tool if you tap into the positive side.
Blogging is one emerging best practice for anyone chasing a dream.
When you blog, you’re broadcasting your message. Blogs are made to be searched and scoured. Unbeknownst to your, people are reading your blog. And when you put yourself out there like that, like-minded people come forth.
The other day, I was assisting an indie filmmaker friend of mine for a seminar she taught. It wasn’t my show, it wasn’t my crowd — I was a sidekick and I barely said anything all night. But afterward, one of the participants came up to me and said that he looked up my web site because my name was on the program, and read my post about lessons I learned when I went to Japan the last time. He liked it enough to remember it and mention it.
I say it again. Your capacity of success is directly related to the number of people who know you and are rooting for you. And blogging is one of today’s ways for attracting that pool of supportive people.
Of course, you can’t just do it once every 3-4 months and call it blogging. You have to do it regularly. It takes time and diligence. You need to learn how to write and use blogging tools/sites.
But it’s worth it. Blogging your process, lessons learned, your trials and tribulations — your messages get broadcasted to the netherworlds of internet, and reach people you can’t reach otherwise. It can help you meet new people or even start a relationship that eventually turns into collaborations or dating.
I’ve had my love/hate relationship with blogging, but I am re-committing myself to it. I can no longer deny that it’s a practice that suits me — I do it well, it’s flexible, and it produces good results. I just need to keep at it.
So there you have it, my friends — five fundamentals I’m working on to increase my capacity for success. True, not all of them directly concern my dream of making music — but I’m convinced that working on these areas have deep, deep impacts on my pursuit.
If you have any other tips and best practices for pursuing dreams, feel free to share in the comment below. Thanks!